Tuesday, 5 October 2010

A game of glorious uncertainties

Today is a day that ought to be remembered for a long long time to come. After a heartstopping finish, the game emerged the unexpected but surprise winner. Today, test cricket demonstrated just why it is regarded as a game of 'glorious' uncertainties. Not for the first time, it silenced those who talk of test cricket being boring and upholding the virtues of T20.

Fittingly perhaps, the hero of the day was a man who's regarded a misfit in the 'fast-food' versions of the game. The man with the unlikely initials of V.V.S, Laxman showed just why he is referred to as 'Very Very Special'. Today's innings was not very very special, it transcended the special- its one of those innings that deserve to be at the highest pinnacle all by themselves.

Sounds like journalistic hyperbole, doesn't it? But look at the situation: at 124-8, India need 92 runs on a deteriorating wicket on which the bounce is uneven. An injured No.10 walks out to join a man whose back is paining so badly that he has missed most of the action in the game and is unable to run. Two injured men with No.11 in tow needing to squeeze out 92 runs on a tough wicket against a pretty decent attack: not the kind of situation where one would expect miracles. The game was Australia's for the taking. India were dead and buried.

But then, this was India v Australia. Anyone who has followed these two teams facing each other over the last decade or so would tell you that when they're at it, its never over till its over.

And so it was the case today. Laxman and Sharma- two tall men- stood tall as others around them fell. Bit by bit, blow by blow, they prised out the Australian stranglehold, until Sharma fell towards the fag end. In came Ojha- a young man of 24 with all the pressure in the world on his shoulders. The pressure nearly finished him off with India a blow away from victory, as the umpire turned down a plumb leg before appeal. Ojha strode out of his crease and another young man, all of 19, saw his chance of becoming a hero. The throw missed by inches and ran into the gap for a heart-breaking four. Two balls later, a wayward delivery clipped Ojha's pad and ran down the leg side, beating the keeper. Amidst a defeaning roar from a crowd that made up in noise what it lacked in numbers, the last wicket pair scrambled the last runs needed for victory.

India had won! Australia, the underdogs coming into the series, but who had pushed the home side as hard as humanly possible had been denied by fate and a great man whose indomitable will overcame an unresponsive body.

That is the stuff of legend. This game itself was the stuff of legend. Written off as a dull draw after day three, it roared back to life after a sensational performance by the Indian bowlers on day four and an even more inspired one by their Australian counterparts. Ultimately, no quarter was given, none was asked... save one heroically sporting gesture by the Australian captain: allowing Laxman a runner when he was well within his rights to deny him one.

And so the spirit of the game shone bright in ways more than one. Cricket showed just why it is the most unique game in the planet. What other game would possibly have produced such heroism, such drama? What other game would have allowed five days of hard fighting to come down to a head and yet have the opponents shake hands and walk off as friends? What game indeed!

Cricket was the winner.

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